100 books like The Splendid Things We Planned - A Family Portrait

By Blake Bailey,

Here are 100 books that The Splendid Things We Planned - A Family Portrait fans have personally recommended if you like The Splendid Things We Planned - A Family Portrait. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Glass Castle

Robin van Eck Author Of Rough

From my list on jaw-dropping books about family connections that will make you laugh, cry and scream.

Why am I passionate about this?

Someone once said I can’t believe you didn’t end up in a ditch with a needle in your arm. It sounds harsh, but they meant it with love. In spite of my broken home, familial dysfunction, trauma, and bad decisions, I found a way to be okay and share my life experiences through words and stories rather than a bottle. I am the Executive Director of a non-profit organization specializing in developing authors who want to publish and use writing for therapy and healing. I live in Calgary, AB, Canada, with my teenage daughter and act as the emotional support human for an anxious dog. 

Robin's book list on jaw-dropping books about family connections that will make you laugh, cry and scream

Robin van Eck Why did Robin love this book?

This is quite possibly my favourite memoir ever written. It made me laugh, cry and scream. Never have I seen such a clearly dysfunctional family that didn’t even realize they were dysfunctional.

I loved them because they embraced life no matter what and hated them because they didn’t see how bad what they were doing to one another was. Full of elements and emotions from my own childhood, this book made me feel deeply and emotionally.  

By Jeannette Walls,

Why should I read it?

21 authors picked The Glass Castle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a major motion picture starring Brie Larson, Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson.

This is a startling memoir of a successful journalist's journey from the deserted and dusty mining towns of the American Southwest, to an antique filled apartment on Park Avenue. Jeanette Walls narrates her nomadic and adventurous childhood with her dreaming, 'brilliant' but alcoholic parents.

At the age of seventeen she escapes on a Greyhound bus to New York with her older sister; her younger siblings follow later. After pursuing the education and civilisation her parents sought to escape, Jeanette eventually succeeds in her quest for the 'mundane,…

Book cover of Angela's Ashes

Why am I passionate about this?

My life and work have been profoundly affected by the central circumstance of my existence: I was born into a very large military Catholic family in the United States of America. As a child surrounded by many others in the 60s, I wrote, performed, and directed family plays with my numerous brothers and sisters. Although I fell in love with a Canadian and moved to Canada, my family of origin still exerts considerable personal influence. My central struggle, coming from that place of chaos, order, and conformity, is to have the courage to live an authentic life based on my own experience of connectedness and individuality, to speak and be heard. 

Caitlin's book list on coming-of-age books that explore belonging, identity, family, and beat with an emotional and/or humorous pulse

Caitlin Hicks Why did Caitlin love this book?

Frank McCourt's classic book, the memoir of his childhood, is proof in the pudding that the origin of humor is the suffering of the low-status character. And that’s only one reason why I love it.

He had me at “Above all -- we were wet.” His descriptions of the impossible and undignified conditions of his childhood, where children had absolutely no control over anything and adults were at the mercy of life itself, brought me so close to him that I think I started believing we were actually related and scribbled him into the family tree as a long-lost uncle.

McCourt captures the hapless quality of gullible, unsupervised children let loose on an unforgiving world with a buoyancy that comes through every sentence and rises above the brutal conditions of his childhood. 

And the truth he finds in the details, from the brutality of religious authority figures to the abject…

By Frank McCourt,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Angela's Ashes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The author recounts his childhood in Depression-era Brooklyn as the child of Irish immigrants who decide to return to worse poverty in Ireland when his infant sister dies.

Book cover of Another Hill and Sometimes a Mountain

Marlayna Glynn Author Of Overlay

From my list on surviving traumatic childhoods.

Why am I passionate about this?

My first memoir, Overlay, has been called “the very best teenage suicide prevention tool ever created” for which I am eternally grateful. I've been told that it's a miracle I survived my childhood at all, but I don't take credit or satisfaction in that statement. Instead, I've aspired to understand what it is that gives some of us the grit that allows us to power through the unfathomable. Voraciously reading similar stories from my fellow authors continues to inform me that we all have the power to push through the pain of a disadvantaged childhood. Whether it's an inner light, luck, fate, a higher power or some combination of some or all of the above, I don't know. I do know that the children like me who grew up to tell their story with the hope of helping others deserve a read. And sometimes, a good cry.

Marlayna's book list on surviving traumatic childhoods

Marlayna Glynn Why did Marlayna love this book?

You think you had a tough childhood? Meet Tim Green. Born blue into an uneducated, poor, and incestuous family in 1950s Ohio, it's a wonder this child lived at all. However, grit and forces of luck arrived to meet Tim when he needed help. Luck involved the right policemen, care workers, social workers, and foster parents. Grit involved the resolve of Tim himself.

Like Frank McCourt, Tim Green learned early to look on the bright side of life. You'll read the most shocking things you can imagine in this book that will leave you shaking your head at the things people will do. But Tim maintained the idea that not only was he worth something, but so was everyone around him. He learned how to forgive, and that was his rocky path to the fabulous life he lives today. This book is LGBTQ positive.

By Tim Green, Marlayna Glynn (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Another Hill and Sometimes a Mountain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"This is a book that should be read while alone, to your friends, to a congregation of survivors of abuse – in other words, it should be read by everyone. Sensitive and honest, gain a new perspective on being alive by infusing Tim’s words into your mind. Highly recommended." Hall of Fame Top 50 Reviewer, Grady Harp

ANOTHER HILL AND SOMETIMES A MOUNTAIN is the powerful testimony of Tim Green's determination to rise above his beginnings ... despite the sting of abandonment and the dark secrets surrounding his birth family. In his painful yet at times wry memoir, Green recounts…

Book cover of The Tender Bar: A Memoir

Christine Sismondo Author Of America Walks Into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops

From my list on to will make you rethink the way we drink and why.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became interested in bar culture in my 20s when I worked at a neighborhood "local" in Toronto and was struck by how close people could become when sharing drinks and stories across a bar. Since then, I’ve spent most of my life researching the history of cocktails and bars—both as an academic topic and as a columnist for magazines and newspapers, including the Toronto Star. I’ve written a podcast on Prohibition for Wondery Media, as well as four books, Mondo Cocktail, America Walks Into a Bar, Canadian Spirits (with Stephen Beaumont), and the forthcoming Cocktails: A Still Life (Running Press), with James Waller and still-life artist Todd M. Casey.   

Christine's book list on to will make you rethink the way we drink and why

Christine Sismondo Why did Christine love this book?

Although I loved the city of New York more than ever after 9/11, it was sometimes hard to feel optimism and hope about the bigger picture and humanity as a whole in the first several years of the new millennium. This book was one of several things that helped restore my faith, since Moehringer so lovingly portrays the community where he grew up in Long Island—an area profoundly impacted by the attack on the World Trade Center. While I was fact-checking the title, et cetera, I discovered there’s a movie version coming out in early 2022. Obviously I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m really looking forward to it.  

By J.R. Moehringer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Tender Bar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**Now a major film directed by George Clooney and starring Ben Affleck**

'Highly entertaining . . . constructed as skilfully as a drink mixed by the author's Uncle Charlie' New York Times

In the rich tradition of bestselling memoirs about self-invention, The Tender Bar is by turns riveting, moving, and achingly funny. An evocative portrait of one boy's struggle to become a man, it's also a touching depiction of how some men remain lost boys.

JR Moehringer grew up listening for a voice, the voice of his missing father, a DJ who disappeared before JR spoke his first words. As…

Book cover of Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life

Nate G. Hilger Author Of The Parent Trap: How to Stop Overloading Parents and Fix Our Inequality Crisis

From my list on how self-help isn't a magic parenting solution.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an economist fascinated by the ways that early opportunities shape lifelong success. My interests go way back to the big public schools I attended in Southern California, where I watched some kids benefit from tutoring, counseling, coaching, and other private resources that most kids couldn’t access. I went on to get a PhD in economics, then taught at Brown University and advised Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign on child development policy. After years of research and teaching – and becoming a dad myself – I wrote The Parent Trap to expose the monumental challenges facing so many parents and the solutions most likely to make a difference.

Nate's book list on how self-help isn't a magic parenting solution

Nate G. Hilger Why did Nate love this book?

This is one of the best books ever written about anything! It’s a classic that remains underappreciated even after its big role in Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. First, it’s entertaining. The author’s team got to know dozens of white-collar and working-class families up close. They lived in these families’ homes. They slept over, watched TV, and brushed their teeth with them; accompanied them to supermarkets, doctor’s appointments, and parent-teacher conferences. It’s crazy! After reading this book it seems impossible to believe that advantageous parenting (1) doesn’t matter all that much or (2) is something “anyone can do if they put their mind to it.” In an appendix Lareau describes what a monumental, stressful, and awkward undertaking it was to observe people like specimens in every aspect of their private lives.

By Annette Lareau,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Unequal Childhoods as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Class does make a difference in the lives and futures of American children. Drawing on in-depth observations of black and white middle-class, working-class, and poor families, "Unequal Childhoods" explores this fact, offering a picture of childhood today. Here are the frenetic families managing their children's hectic schedules of 'leisure' activities; and here are families with plenty of time but little economic security. Lareau shows how middle-class parents, whether black or white, engage in a process of 'concerted cultivation' designed to draw out children's talents and skills, while working-class and poor families rely on 'the accomplishment of natural growth', in which…

Book cover of Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India

Venkataraghavan Subha Srinivasan Author Of The Origin Story of India's States

From my list on discovering a modern India you’ve never seen.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by maps all my life. The map of India has always held special interest. As I’ve lived in different parts of India, I’ve seen firsthand how India is one country, but its stories are multiple. I chronicled India’s varied stories through the origins of each of its states. Similarly, I’ve curated a diverse and inclusive reading list. It covers different parts of the country and contains different types of books—graphic novel, travelog, memoir, and short story collections. The authors also cut across religion, gender, and social strata. I hope you discover a whole new India!

Venkataraghavan's book list on discovering a modern India you’ve never seen

Venkataraghavan Subha Srinivasan Why did Venkataraghavan love this book?

We learn about our family and our place in the world through the stories our older generations tell us. This is such a memoirnot about the author but about her (famous) uncle and mother. To me, it has the feel of numerous family gatherings where old stories are dredged up and the youngsters listen with wide eyes and keen ears of a time before their time. Situated deep in the Telugu hinterland in the south, this memoir presents an intimate personal narrative layered with the communist and caste politics of the first decades after Independence.

By Sujatha Gidla,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ants Among Elephants as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Wall Street Journal Top 10 Nonfiction Book of 2017
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2017
A Shelf Awareness Best Book of 2017

"Ants Among Elephants is an arresting, affecting and ultimately enlightening memoir. It is quite possibly the most striking work of non-fiction set in India since Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, and heralds the arrival of a formidable new writer." —The Economist

The stunning true story of an untouchable family who become teachers, and one, a poet and revolutionary

Like one in six people in India, Sujatha Gidla was born an untouchable. While most untouchables…

Book cover of Emily Writes: Emily Dickinson and Her Poetic Beginnings

Lisa Rogers Author Of 16 Words: William Carlos Williams and the Red Wheelbarrow

From my list on biographies to inspire young poets.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love sharing poetry with children! I became inspired to write poetic picture books during my 20-year career as an elementary school librarian. In class, we often read aloud, discussed, and performed poems. My students considered word choices, identified alliteration, metaphor, and simile, and developed a sophisticated vocabulary of “beautiful” words. They delighted in using their senses to write about special places and moments and did research to create and illustrate fact-based poems about people and animals. In exploring poetry and biographies of poets, students found inspiration and used their authentic voices to craft their own funny, engaging, and thoughtful poetry.

Lisa's book list on biographies to inspire young poets

Lisa Rogers Why did Lisa love this book?

What experiences might children have that inspire them to write poetry? Author Yolen brings readers into the Dickinson home in Amherst, Massachusetts, where young Emily scribbles on scraps of paper in her father’s study. Emily reads her three-word poem to her parents, to the flowers in the garden, and to Mrs. Mack, who provides encouragement that’s as warm and appreciated as the desserts they share. Just as Emily takes time to ponder what is the essence of a poem, this imagined story unfolds at an unhurried pace. That pace, combined with the engaging illustrations, permits readers to linger on small moments and let their own imaginations wander. Poetry takes time, just as growing up does.

By Jane Yolen, Christine Davenier (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Emily Writes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Perhaps, she thinks, I'll make a poem.
Emily smiles.
The garden makes her feel all sunny,
like a poet.

As a young girl, Emily Dickinson loved to scribble curlicues and circles, imagine new rhymes, and connect with the bountiful flowers in her spring garden. The sounds, sights, and smells of home swirled through her mind and Emily began to explore writing and rhyming her feelings. She thinks about the real and the unreal. Perhaps poems are the in-between.

This thoughtful spotlight on Emily's early experimentation with poetry as a child offers a unique window into one of the world's most…

Book cover of Monkeys

Wendy Lawless Author Of Chanel Bonfire

From my list on helping you survive a kooky childhood.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a stage and television actress who, after getting married and having two children, turned to writing in my forties as my “second act”. I started writing about being a mom in Hollywood, and being raised by a mom who was—well, nuts. For years I dined out on crazy stories of my childhood: breakfasting on cold, half-eaten hors d'oeuvres strewn across our Park Avenue room from my crazy mom's all-night cocktail parties, falling asleep on banquets at nightclubs, skipping school to sneak into a swanky hotel in London and meet the Osmonds. The final result was my memoir, Chanel Bonfire. I believe it has the power to inspire and give hope, as well as entertain. 

Wendy's book list on helping you survive a kooky childhood

Wendy Lawless Why did Wendy love this book?

I chose this quietly devastating first novel by Susan Minot because it is a delicate family story, thought to be based on her own childhood of growing up as one of seven children. When it came out, many of her siblings became upset with her portrayal of events; a few even wrote their own novels with their version of what they perceived as “the truth”. My own sister stopped speaking to me when I sent her my first memoir to read. She eventually came around, and told me she was glad I’d told our story. I believe that the truth is not a solid, but a liquid. Truth is personal—it’s what we see, assume or believe filtered through our own lens and experience. 

By Susan Minot,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Monkeys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Minot’s bestselling debut: A moving novel of familial love and endurance in the face of shattering tragedy Monkeys is the remarkable story of a decade in the life of the Vincents, a colorful Irish Catholic family from the Boston suburbs. On the surface, they seem happy with their vivacious mother Rosie at the helm. But underneath, the Vincents struggle to maintain the appearance of wealth and stability while dealing with the effects of their father’s alcoholism. When a sudden accident strikes, their love for one another is tested like never before. Written by the bestselling author of Evening, Monkeys is…

Book cover of The End of American Childhood: A History of Parenting from Life on the Frontier to the Managed Child

Sophie Brickman Author Of Baby, Unplugged: One Mother's Search for Balance, Reason, and Sanity in the Digital Age

From my list on parenting that you actually want to read.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm the mother of three children, ages 6, 3, and 1, and because I tend to write about what interests me, started to investigate the world of parenting when my eldest was born. (Prior to that, I was a food reporter and editor.) As my husband, a tech entrepreneur, kept bringing home pieces of technology that were supposed to make my life easier (spoiler alert: they rarely did), I found myself urgently trying to figure out what was best for my kids, and myself: the boring pile of blocks, or the flashy, sexy iPad? I spent years delving into the fields of neurobiology, psychology, philosophy, and pediatrics to get a better handle on these questions

Sophie's book list on parenting that you actually want to read

Sophie Brickman Why did Sophie love this book?

Fass is the professor emerita at the University of California, Berkeley, where she taught for thirty-six years, and the author of numerous books on children’s history. This one I found to be particularly illuminating, as she traces the history of American childhood and parenting from the 1700s to today, wrestling with how shifting American notions of independence and success in turn affected how children were viewed, and how parents parented. For any history buff. 

By Paula S. Fass,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The End of American Childhood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The End of American Childhood takes a sweeping look at the history of American childhood and parenting, from the nation's founding to the present day. Renowned historian Paula Fass shows how, since the beginning of the American republic, independence, self-definition, and individual success have informed Americans' attitudes toward children. But as parents today hover over every detail of their children's lives, are the qualities that once made American childhood special still desired or possible? Placing the experiences of children and parents against the backdrop of social, political, and cultural shifts, Fass challenges Americans to reconnect with the beliefs that set…

Book cover of Once More We Saw Stars: A Memoir

Debbie Chein Morris Author Of We Used to Dance: Loving Judy, My Disabled Twin

From my list on getting through life’s challenges.

Why am I passionate about this?

At the age of fifty-three, I was suddenly thrust into the role of primary caregiver for my disabled twin sister who was unable to sit, stand, feed herself, eat solid foods, or communicate. Up to that point, that role had been my mother’s with the help of home-attendants; but my mother was aging and the care provided by the ever-changing attendants was wanting. I was forced to place Judy in a nursing home. The challenge left me overwhelmed with the responsibility of overseeing her care and there were days I wondered if I could go on. With the support of family and friends, I was able to make it through.

Debbie's book list on getting through life’s challenges

Debbie Chein Morris Why did Debbie love this book?

In May of 2015, two-year-old Greta Greene was hit in the head by bricks falling from a nearby building while sitting on a bench with her grandmother. She died shortly after.

I remember hearing of it on the news and wondering how the parents and grandmother could survive such a trauma. Jayson Greene’s book tells us how. For me, it was a reminder that, even when the worst happens and we find ourselves in the dark of the tunnel, the light can shine again.

Reading this book I realized that this family made it through the same way I got through my own trauma: one step at a time, one day at a time; sometimes even just one small moment at a time.

By Jayson Greene,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Once More We Saw Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A gripping and beautiful book about the power of love in the face of unimaginable loss'
Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild

'Extraordinary . . . both heartbreaking and life-affirming . . . you will find your heart magically expanded'
Mail on Sunday

'Unimaginably poetic . . . I learned a lot reading this book and have passed it on to others'
Jessie Cave, Red Magazine

'Greene's account of his loss is remarkably uplifting. It's hard-won proof that love can survive our worst fears and our darkest, most desperate emotions'
Daily Mail

'This minutely observed memoir will surely be helpful to…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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